Opposition wins Finland local elections, PM's party loses

Helsinki: An opposition center-right party came top in Sunday's local election in Finland, ahead of Prime Minister Sanna Marin's ruling Social Democratic Party in the first election for the popular young leader who took office 18 months ago.

With all votes counted in the Nordic nation's municipal election, initial results showed on Monday that the conservative National Coalition Party had taken 21.4 percent of votes nationwide, while the Social Democrats took 17.7 percent and centrist government member Center Party 14.9 percent respectively.

The vote to renew local councils in Finland's more than 300 municipalities, with some 35,000 candidates running from the northern Lapland region to the autonomous territory of Aland Islands in the south, is viewed as a key indication of parties' popularity ahead of the country's 2023 parliamentary election.

The elections were the first for Marin as leader of both the government and her party.

She acknowledged that the result was a disappointment as support for the Social Democrats was 1.7 percentage points lower from the 2017 election, while the conservatives managed to increase their support by 0.7 percentage points.

The result was not as good as I had expected, Marin told reporters late Sunday, adding that she was particularly disappointed with the low voter turnout of 55.1%.

The populist Finns Party saw its support rising 5.6 percentage points from the previous election, to 14.5% of all votes.

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